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Hot Cities of the World: Moscow & St. Petersburg

I recently had the opportunity to travel to Moscow and St. Petersburg with Professor Karl Moore and 42 other McGill students as part of the Hot Cities of the World Tour. Each year, the tour aims to bring McGill students to various cities which will likely rise to prominence and become global centers of economic activity in the coming years. While representing McGill University, students travelling with the Hot Cities tour have visited Tel Aviv, Dubai, Bangalore, Mumbai, Johannesburg and many other cities.The tour has two primary purposes. Firstly, to allow students to meet with political leaders, entrepreneurs and C-Level executives in order to bolster cooperation, communication and awareness as the global economy becomes increasingly interconnected. Secondly, the Hot Cities Tour has a social component as well. Last year, after visiting South Africa, students raised over $18,000 for the Ubuntu Education Fund; a community institution which provides support for the most vulnerable children while providing them with a pathway out of poverty. Aside from providing children with educational services, the Ubuntu Education Fund provides children with nutritional counseling, professional development, heath exams and related health services.This year, the Hot Cities tour has set out to raise $20,000 for the Kitezh Children’s Community. Collaboratively, we chose to tackle this issue based on the urgency and nature of the various challenges which Russian orphans face. Each year, roughly 15,000 Russian teenagers leave orphanages. Sadly, their fortunes are tied to the adverse circumstances which they must combat while they are further hindered by limited social assistance. Of these 15,000 teenagers, roughly a third are unemployed and homeless. Moreover, roughly 3,000 orphans resort to acts of crime and violence while 1,500 commit suicide. Most startling, approximately half of the girls released from orphanages turn towards prostitution as a means of supporting themselves.The issues that… Read More

Waterloo Protesters Must Be Disciplined for Censorship

At the University of Waterloo last week, Conservative MP Stephen Woodworth was scheduled to speak to a group of students at an event organized by the Students for Life campus club. Stephen Woodworth, a staunchly pro-life MP, had previously brought forth a motion in Parliament to strike a committee to review the Criminal Code definition of when a child becomes a human being. The motion was voted down, with the Prime Minister and most of his Cabinet voting in opposition.While many of us may not share Mr. Woodworth’s sentiments regarding abortion, no one has the right to impose a viewpoint on another. We may challenge views we find unattractive, but we do not have the right to silence or suppress unpopular ideas.Unfortunately, a group of students shut down Mr. Woodworth’s speech by shouting him down, until he was left with no choice but to cancel the event. In what can only be described as an act of idiocy, a Mr. Ethan Jackson, dressed as a giant vagina, shouted, “Who do you think you are trying to impose your bigotry, your views on society through your Christian monotheism?”  The President of the University of Waterloo issued a press release that supported the values of free speech and condemned the actions of the protesters as “an attack on our presence as s a place where issues are explored, discussed and debated.” A review of the incident is currently underway. The University of Waterloo, similarly to other universities, has policies in place governing how academic and non-academic student misconduct is handled. “Disruptive, dangerous, aggressive or threatening behaviour” is an offence under this policy. Further, the University recognizes that “communication, inquiry and the free exchange of ideas are fundamental to a university education, and require an environment of tolerance and respect […] A student's academic… Read More

OSSTF holding students hostage in teacher dispute

High school students are being disproportionately affected by the conflict between the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) and the Ontario government. OSSTF mandated its members to withdraw from extracurricular activities in early December. Given that the Liberals have imposed contracts under Bill 115 before students return to school on Monday, the lack of extracurricular activities will certainly continue.What is most worrying about the conflict is the way in which students are being used as pawns by the OSSTF to advance and promote a political message. The OSSTF has released two TV advertisements, one featuring students ready to attend band with musical instruments in hand, and one with a group of basketball players. The ads are short, and a female voice narrates: “there is only one thing standing between public high school students and their extracurricular activities. Fight Bill 115.”This leads one to conclude that it is the government preventing students from participating in extracurricular activities. No other information is presented and the ad clearly aims to generate favourable public perception for the OSSTF and antagonize the government’s position.It is conveniently glossed over that the extracurricular ban came from the top brass at OSSTF.Students’ anger over the loss of extracurricular activities should not be directed towards the government, as the ad suggests. Nor should it be directed against individual teachers, who have very little leeway to deviate from the orders issued by the union. An Ottawa-area teacher did just this and continued to lead extracurricular activities in class. According to her, she was phoned and threatened by a union official with a fine. The OSSTF also posts the information of those who violate its orders in its publicly accessible newsletter, according to its vice-president. With the union putting such severe restrictions on its members, it is no surprise that very… Read More

Canadian Federation of Students: Solidarity through Litigation?

The Canadian Federation of Students (CFS), a national organization composed of campus student unions, purports to organize students on a "democratic, co-operative basis." When Guelph students wanted to hold a referendum to exit the CFS, they served the CFS with a petition asking for a referendum to be held to decertify. However, the CFS refused to schedule a referendum. Guelph's Central Student Association (CSA) took the CFS to court, and an Ontario lower court trial judge granted the referendum. Then 73.5 per cent of Guelph students voted to exit the CFS. The CFS alleges the results were not reliable.Even after Guelph students overwhelmingly expressed a desire to leave, the CFS continued to challenge the democratic vote in court. They argued that signatures were not verified for the initial referendum request. The Ontario Court of Appeal judge granted the request, and remitted the matter to another trial court judge on a technicality. The appeal was granted because the original judge did not provide written reasoning for his decision.The trial court judge, during the hearing on awarding costs, stated that “many people were to be financially and otherwise affected by the outcome.”The judge is correct about financial motivation. According to the University of Guelph, the CFS made over $230,000 per year from Guelph student fees alone. Guelph’s CSA, has, up until this point, been fighting the decision in court. The legal proceedings have cost Guelph students over $400,000.The CFS has a long history of legal disputes. In 2011, the CFS-BC Executive refused to allow a member from Kwantlen University’s student union to serve as a representative on the CFS-BC, which is a provincial "affiliate" of the national CFS organization, because he had taken part in a campaign to withdraw Kwantlen from the CFS. The BC Court of Appeal found that the CFS-BC “was not entitled to go further and determine whether it considered him to… Read More

Education – Getting it right

Canada doesn’t have a federal ministry of education. Unlike all other civilized countries, we allow provinces to make a hash of our people’s future.More and more, we hear complaints from employers, who say that the pool of workers is inadequate in terms of skills and qualifications, and from those seeking jobs, many of whom are losing hope.One thing we must accept is that the job market isn’t our grandparents’ place anymore. Steady, life-time employment (particularly with the same company) is a thing of the past. Increasingly, people are working from contract to contract, and paycheck to paycheck.But the “system” hasn’t changed. Our schools and universities still train students on the basis of curricula that expired last century. A university degree is still seen as the non plus ultra, especially by parents who want nothing but the best for their offspring. Those who pursue a trade are looked down upon as being inferior.Plumbers and so many other tradespeople can earn, in fact, more money than many lawyers, doctors and so-called “white-collar workers”. They may not have a salad of letters following their names, but “just” a simple certificate that shows that they’re good with their hands and know how to apply this or that tool. But many of them are better prepared for tomorrow’s world than, say, the newest graduate in Women’s Studies.A lot needs to be changed. Universities must start customizing their programs and courses to reflect what the market needs and can absorb. This is not to say that liberal arts ought to be axed – on the contrary, only a good grounding in the liberal arts will teach you how to think for yourself and absorb new skills and knowledge at lightning speed. In fact, the liberal arts matter more today than ever before in the history of… Read More

“Screw You, Old Man”: A Report Card on Contemporary Politicians

Young people are the future. We’re entitled to a university education. Politicians can’t be trusted, unless they tell us that politicians can’t be trusted. The world is there for the taking. And government needs to live for today instead of worry about tomorrow. We’re young, we’re energetic, and we love cheap propaganda, apparently. That’s what it’s like to be a 20-something Canadian. For as long as we’ve been listening, we’ve been hearing gray-haired old folks tell us about the benefits of this, the hope of that, and the power of our hobbies (did you hear about the time Twitter defeated 4 dictators before being distracted by #AwkwardSexMoments?). We’re young. We’re simple. Just pat us on the head, ask for our energy and our votes, and then move on to the real issues only in private conversations with your elder pals. Welcome to 21st century politics in Canada. Canadian politicians are some of the worst propagandists of our age. Policy is supplanted by platitude. Insight has been replaced by the jab. Vision is simply an explanation of why the other guy is a jerk. Involvement is the retweet of cheap sloganeering. Younger Canadians are being shortchanged and subjectated by a generation of politicians which is utterly devoid of direction. If you’re young, the contemporary politician has you figured out. You’d rather have a student loan than a job after graduation. You’d rather have your tuition lowered than your income raised. You’d rather hear how awesome you are than hear about the challenges of obtaining meaningful employment post-graduation. You’d rather have free pizza than have a serious discussion about the liberties and liabilities of life in tomorrow’s Canada. We are the young, dumb, and easily distracted youth Canadian politicians love to mess with. And they have been.Successive parliaments have spent the nation into an unsavory level of… Read More
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